Lovers Handkerchiefs

     Last week Claudia N. from Austria toured Lisbon with me and her daughter. After the tour they did some shopping and bought a beautiful handkerchief, with a writing they couldn’t understand.

     These handkerchiefs are traditional from the North of Portugal and used to be embroidered by young girls to offer them to their boyfriends. The handkerchief represented the beginning of the relationship: the girl would embroider it with love sentences to declare her love, and the boy would use it in public accepting the commitment.

     They are always embroidered with happy colors, flowers, hearts  and always have a spelling mistake. At the time most girls could barely read and would write the sentences the same way they’d speak, trading Vs for Bs.

     Nowadays they can be found in most handicraft shops and besides the classic handmade handkerchiefs one can also find inexpensive replicas, neat to use as kitchen fabrics, table cloths and home wear.

     This is something I definitely recommend as a souvenir as they’re both traditional and beautiful. Congratulations girls, you picked a beautiful “Lenço dos Namorados”!

5 things not to do in Lisbon

     Lisbon is a city plenty of charm, history, great food and amazing attractions. But like any other city, it has its tourist traps. Avoid them and make the most out of your time in Lisbon.

     1- Feel like a sardine in a can, inside Tram nº 28 – This tram line was originally designed to provide public transportation for those who live in the historical neighborhoods but got so popular among tourists that only few locals dare to get on-board. Fight for a place inside this tram might be worthy, but only if you can get a seat. If you’re standing, you’ll only be able to see other tourist’s armpits and the chances of being pick-pocketed are quite high.

      2- Wait in line for Santa Justa Elevator – Historical elevators make part of this city, specially long ago, before cars made part of the daily life. Santa Justa is a true gem of architecture but after you’ve taken a couple pictures, walk along Rua do Carmo and feel the atmosphere of this hipster neighborhood. Listen to Fado from an old-fashioned car that sells Fado cd’s, do a little shopping and finally turn right at Calçada do Sacramento to reach the top of the elevator and get amazed with the views.

      3- Go to Belem in the morning, specially on Sundays - St Jerome monastery is a world heritage site and a definite MUST if you’re visiting Lisbon. Unfortunately, it still is an active church with masses on Sunday morning, during which you can’t visit the church. It’s hard to explain the limited visiting times or the chaos around those times. Skip all this and if Sunday is your only day available, go there after 2pm. It will be completely different.

      4- Eat or have coffee at any food chain - I know it works for everywhere in the world, but in Lisbon this is a specially big mistake. Coffee and food definitely make part of our culture and not only you’ll be loosing the opportunity to try our exquisite pastries and excellent coffee, but also spending more money.

      5- Have dinner before 8.30pm or sit for a meal in Rua Augusta  - In Portugal we don’t have dinner before 8.30, sometimes 9pm. If you do find a restaurant with their doors open before 8pm, it will certainly be a touristy restaurant. Just like the restaurants always open in Rua Augusta, they may be good or within your budget, but may also serve you something different than authentic Portuguese food.

      6- Avoid hotels anywhere near Avenida Almirante Reis – This tip is just a little bonus. Even though you may find cheap and modern hotels around this neighborhood, I’d avoid them. Those hotels may be nice, but the area is one of the least pleasant and the subway works with limited times.

How shopping for pans took us to one of the best views over Lisbon

It’s been one month since we’ve been offering our cooking classes in Lisbon and next week, we’re hosting our first large group. Like any chef, Amelia (our instructor) , is always afraid of not making enough food and therefore wanted to buy some big skillets.

It’s been a busy summer but today I finally managed to meet her after lunch and find some free time to go shopping. This was supposed to be a banal act but soon became a fun afternoon.

It’s not hard to shop for home goods in Lisbon, but there is one store in particular that stands out above all of the others.  Here, cookware comes in all shapes, sizes, brands… and what a view!

There was a lot to choose from but once decisions were made it was time to sit down and have a drink, enjoying the fabulous view from their terrace.